Kristen Gutekunst heard the crack of the bat on the ball and knew this one was going to travel. She just didn’t know how far.
The junior blasted an inside-the-park home run, drilling the ball to deep left field and sparking a fifth-inning scoring burst as The High School of Telecommunications Arts and Technology notched a 9–4 victory over Francis Lewis in the second round of the Public School Athletic League Class A softball tournament at Leif Erickson Park on May 26.
“I really wanted our team to win,” Gutekunst said. “The last couple of games, I haven’t been hitting as well as I can, and I just wanted to really help as much as I can and make my coach and my team proud.”
It had been a back-and-forth game early as the squads looked to find some momentum. That wasn’t easy, however, with Tele (18–3) starter Thalia Santiago and Francis Lewis starter Diana Ferreira each holding their own in the circle. In the first four innings, the two combined for 13 strikeouts.
“Once my team started getting more into the game, I realized I needed to kick it up a notch,” Santiago said. “I know I started off bad, but my team had my back.”
Tele thought it had seized control in the top of the fourth, plating two runs as Ashley Scalfani and Patrice Sotomayer each connected on hits. That feeling didn’t last long.
Francis Lewis (16–4) responded with its own offensive outburst in the bottom of the inning, sparked by Felicia LoPilato, who drove in two runs with a triple and then scored on a passed ball to tie the game at four.
“They’re both real good pitchers, and the girls were nervous early,” Tele coach Glenn McCartney said. “We had a rough fourth inning, and I went out and told them, ‘This is it, you can’t give up any more if we’re going to win.’”
The Yellow Jackets needed to find a way to take control, and Gutekunst’s bat gave it the opportunity.
The shortstop scored her home run easily, beating out the throw home and giving her team the offensive spark it had needed all day. Tele added three more runs in the bottom of the inning, including a two-run single by Scalfani, to take control.
“I think once I got the hit and everyone started hitting, everyone knew we could win,” Gutekunst said. “We were doing so well, and I think from then on, just everything fell into place.”
Santiago wrapped up the victory, striking out five of the last seven batters she faced. The junior ace racked up 13 total strikeouts, giving up just four hits.
“I was confident,” Santiago said. “The team, all their energy, you can feel it. Once the confidence started getting up, I got into the groove and knew I could do more in the circle.”
The victory keeps Tele’s season alive, but more importantly, it gave the Yellow Jackets a chance to showcase what they’re capable of. If Santiago keeps throwing strikes and the lineup keeps putting bat on ball, this is a team that is more than confident, they’re ready to take on anyone.
“We’re aggressive offensively,” McCartney said. “We try to run hard, we always try to take the extra base, and it pays off.”